Date: c. Eleventh Century B.C.
The times of the Judges were extremely difficult years. That book concluded with the observation that anarchy reigned. No one was answerable to anyone else. The Book of Ruth shows a different side to this period, no doubt included to provide some relief to the otherwise almost completely bad situation. It tells of a famine that drove Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their family from Bethlehem to Moab to settle there. A young Moabite woman named Ruth married into the family and, after being widowed herself, refused to stay in her native land when her mother-in-law Naomi, also widowed by then, returned home. Her beautiful words, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (1:16), have inspired generations of struggling people. An act of kindness from a kinsman, Boaz, is recorded, providing an heir for the family of Elimelech. Boaz was to be an ancestor of David the king, and ultimately of Jesus himself. It is significant that Ruth, though born a pagan, was part of the ancestry of Christ.
Theological Themes in the Book of Ruth
The religious truths found in this book relate more to practical life than to abstract theology. Loyalty, love, kindness, the value of persons, and the need to understand one another stand out. In the midst of the chaos then in the land, meaning could be found by returning to the first principles of simple truth. The Book of Ruth tells us that no matter how bad things may be, goodness can exist, if we are willing to make the effort.
Outline for the Book of Ruth
- In a foreign land Ruth 1:1-22
- Ruth and Boaz Ruth 2:1-23
- The redemption of Ruth RUTH 3:1-4:15
- The ancestors of David and Christ Ruth 4:16-22